Borders in the Shadow Lines

Borders, Violence and Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines
“Everyone lives in a story… because stories are all there are to live in, it was just a question of which one you choose” (The Shadow Lines 109)
Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines (TSL) is a story that arises out of the narrator’s reminiscences, recollected in tranquility and looked at with all the wisdom of the hind sight. It is about essentialization as a process, and its questioning in various ways. Essentialization is a very dangerously deceptive thing, especially when its purpose is a neat compartmentalization of human beings on the basis of subjective traits. Even then, sustaining the definition of water tight compartments of humanity becomes very difficult when homogeneity tends to erase the well defined boundaries, making them blurred and shadowy. One of the many appealing facets of TSL is the way it looks at the accident that descended on the pages of history: the creation of two nations on the basis of the incompatibility of two religious groups and their mutual hatred. East and West Pakistan were carved out of the British India on the basis of the two nation theory that totally opposed any possibility of co-existence. Boundaries were created and people were forced to alter their lives and selves to accommodate them to the conceptual nations that the powerful persons had created.

TSL shows the plight of the narrator’s grandmother and her loss of the sense of secure moorings; a point of reference to which one returns for assurance. Her loss was caused due to the borders imposed on her. In his Modern Political Geography Richard Muir defines boundaries that “occur where the vertical interfaces between state sovereignties intersect the surface of the earth…As vertical interfaces, boundaries have no horizontal extent” (qtd. inAnderson 172). Tha’mma would have been perplexed with Muir’s elegantly defined boundaries that only existed in the conceptual space. In her own simple way she “wanted to know...